Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Al Jazeera

It was reported today that the Iraqi parliament voted to "start legal proceedings against Al-Jazeera television over perceived insults by the Arabic news channel against Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani." Interesting. I find Al Jazeera to be biased and not supportive of democracy in Iraq, but to sue Al Jazeera for criticizing Sistani seems rather silly. The reasons Iraqis dislike Al Jazeera go beyond Al Jazeera's "insult" of the revered cleric. If you have read my blog since October, you know that I dislike Al Jazeera - just search for 'Al Jazeera' using the blog search tool in the upper left corner if you are interested in what I have written about them. Based on discussions about Al Jazeera with Iraqis I know, it seems that most Iraqis dislike, even HATE, Al Jazeera. Iraq Pundit recently wrote in a post titled Why Iraqis Still Hate Al Jazeera:

'Suddenly Faisal Qassem and his guests and Al Jazeera itself disappeared for me, and instead I saw a crowd of Iraqi men, women, and children choking to death in a cloud of chlorine gas released by one of the noble resistance's truck bombs. I saw the booksellers of Mutanabbi Street blown to pieces, their precious burning pages raining down on their corpses. I saw Iraqi girls who had gone to school and Iraqi mothers who had gone to the market, all murdered and lying in a sea of Iraqi blood. Characters like Qassem have seen all this too, but they don't see murder, they see "resistance."

But that's Arab Nationalism, isn't it? When the Baathist regime was overthrown, hardcore nationalists equated Arab "honor" with the survival of brutal and tyrannical trash. Now, they equate "resistance" with our slaughter. Do you remember the stories, following the overthrow of the Baathists, about Al Jazeera crews who had been set upon by Iraqis who had been enraged by the coverage? Sometimes these crews were forced to take refuge in their equipment trucks until help arrived. Sometimes they were chased to the next town. There was a reason for that Iraqi rage. There still is.'

I thought that was pretty good, and I agree. But we must give credit to Al Jazeera where credit is due. I thoroughly enjoyed the debate between Sadeq Al Musawi and Mish'an Al Jabouri - Al Jazeera would not have invited Musawi if they were totally biased. As'ad Abu Khalil (the Angry Arab) was a recent guest of Al Jazeera English in a discussion about the US media as accomplices to the Bush administration's propagandizing of the war. After watching the debate, I was surprised by the variety of guests, and I was delighted by what Alberto Fernandez said 47 minutes into the debate. It seems that Arab media has evolved over the years - it seems that Arab media has learned from western media. So Al Jazeera is not evil, and criticizing Sistani is not a crime, but overall they are still biased, in my opinion, and I doubt they will ever support true democracy in Iraq.

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